Building defects

Building Act, Victorian Reforms

June 28, 2022

With only a dozen sittings days left for this Victorian Parliament, a comprehensive set of reforms have been proposed to the Building Act.

It is an encouraging bundle of initiatives that, if passed, will mark the beginning of a more interventionist regime of building regulation in Victoria, particularly for high-rise residential. This comes in the wake of numerous reports and enquires into building defects and non-conforming product being used in high-rise construction.

Among the more significant reforms:

  • The State Building Surveyor will be given additional powers to make ruling about controversial issues
  • A Building Monitor will be appointed to advocate for consumers
  • Additional building inspections will be made prior to issuing occupation certificates (but only toward the end of construction), and a comprehensive building manual will have to be prepared for the owners corporation.  

These are good reforms and not particularly controversial given all we have learnt from recent enquires and academic studies. Frankly, anything less would have been unacceptable. The question is will it be enough to change the way builders behave on site.  

As for other states? They’ve gone further:

  • Qld has changed the duty of care laws to introduce personal responsibility on everyone involved to make buildings safe.  
  • NSW now makes builders register building plans and elements on an electronic portal before construction, allowing the building commissioner to monitor these and make inspections during construction. Big brother is certainly watching NSW builders and they are feeling the heat.  

By comparison, it’s unfortunate that Victoria’s set of reforms feel light touch. For an industry that on any view hasn’t crowned itself in glory, this is disappointing. Perhaps 12 days are not enough to see it passed, and the next parliament might have time to confer with other states on the results they are getting and up the ante.

Michael Teys

Strata expert

Michael is a strata expert with over 30 years experience in strata law and management. He is a strata researcher with City Futures Research Centre UNSW, a consultant to strata industry suppliers, and conducts executive education for strata managers and property processionals.